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Meat Consumption: Utmost Vigilance

For some time now, the commitments taken by the Head of State at the January 2011 Agro-pastoral Show in Ebolowa in the South Region to ensure a better supply of meat in good quantity and quality may be imperiled by repeated pests in various parts of the country. The attainment of emergent economic status by 2035 also requires that citizens have easy access to food and, notably, proteins of animal origin. So, news about ‘wandering pests’ can only be very disturbing.

The action of several field actors to stem – if not to control – the spread of animal diseases, by preventing them from taking endemic proportions can only be encouraged and saluted. Lately, we have noticed that officials of the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries have been in an upbeat posture in the fight against the spread. Movements of animals have been circumscribed while suspected zones have been literally quarantined.

Just last week, there were press reports that because of inattention, as many as 75,000 goats were reportedly killed in the DRC in an epidemic. That was serious enough to keep Cameroonian officials on the alert because attacks or epidemics know no frontiers.

Government’s mobilization may, however, come to naught if citizens are not sufficiently sensitised on the necessity of wading off diseases or, when necessary, joining veterinary officials in putting up an efficient fight against their spread. Lack of cooperation on the part of field actors such as stock breeders and owners of poultry and other animal farms, will greatly minimize the effort to raise healthy animals, keep diseases at bay and work serenely towards attaining the objectives set out in government’s Growth and Employment Paper; the blueprint which unrolls the government’s strategy in achieving emergent economy status circa 2035.

Animal health officials have been very keen about diseases and pests such that shady and fishy businessmen of the sector simply take them for bleeding-heart enthusiasts! Last Saturday, a non-working day, veterinary officials, working on a tip-off, laid an ambush at Ndobo, a neighbourhood in the western entrance to Douala. They fell on 550 carcasses of dead pigs carried in a cold store truck destined for sale in Douala.

All the animals were reported to be infected with the African Swine Fever and, therefore unfit for consumption. This was just one rare case among several others who, possibly meander their way into the huge markets of our big cities such as Douala, Yaounde, Bamenda, Bafoussam, Maroua or Garoua. Here, customers are not difficult to find because poverty has so fragilised impoverished people that very many are ready to forgo sanitary standards for even infected meat.

Owners of commercial animal farms, once warned of an impending pest attack, would rather find strategies of disposing of their animals than reporting to competent veterinary officials. And this state of affairs is largely responsible for the difficulties observed in circumventing attacks or organizing treatment or prevention more efficiently.

The season of epidemics is on. And the situation begs for some serious action in three phases. Governmental officials should act with greater resolve and punish those guilty of wrongdoing. Actors of the stockbreeding sector should know that selling off sick animals only postpones the problem and does not resolve it. On the other hand, ordinary citizens or consumers of animal farm products should show more concern in the functioning of the sector by blowing whistles whenever and wherever malpractices are observed.

In one word, vigilance is the posture to be taken.


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